Tag Archives: Hepp Exclusiv

Restaurant Review: Helena’s Restaurant at Coopmanshuijs nowhere near 5-star!

imageI had read good thing about Helena’s Restaurant at Coopmanshuijs, and was left with an impression that it was a must-try restaurant. It was a severe disappointment when I had dinner there last night, especially in terms of service and ambiance.  It does not match the level of the 5-star hotel in which it is located.

I had booked earlier in the day, when I walked past, surprised to find the 16-bedroom five-star hotel on popular Church Street in Stellenbosch. When I arrived just after the World Cup Continue reading →

Camissa Brasserie at Table Bay Hotel: chic interior, does not live up to ‘Cape heritage food’ promise!

Camissa Interior Whale Cottage PortfolioWhen the Cape Town branch of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, an international association of gastronomy, organised its first function of the year at the Table Bay hotel, I booked, on the off-chance that it could be held at Camissa Brasserie, which opened two months ago. It was a convivial evening with good company, but disappointed on its promise of Cape heritage food.

The Chaîne members are serious food-lovers, and include restaurant owners, chefs, wine estate owners, and gourmands.  The Cape Town branch of the Chaîne has about 70 members, its Bailli of the Bailliage du Cap Samm Bain told me, and 35 members and guests attended the dinner, including Chaîne members from Saudi Arabia and Sweden.  On arrival we were served The Table Bay Captain Table Brut, which Gershwin told me is made for the hotel by Graham Beck.  Canapés Camissa Canapes Whale Cottage Portfolioserved were oysters, duck confit croquettes with an Asian style plum sauce, tempura crab claw, and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto with hollandaise sauce.

During the drinks I had a look at the 45-seater New York style Brasserie interior, which had been booked out for the Chaîne dinner, and Gershwin told me that the space previously was The Conservatory Restaurant and Terrace and Palm Court, which was an overflow venue for their breakfasts and when the Atlantic Grill restaurant was full, with a view onto the V & A Waterfront and Table Mountain.  It received a make-over by designer Carolyn Davies, with a new grey ceiling with a pressed steel effect, bookshelves along the walls, and an impressive chandelier made from crystal whisky decanters in the main and slightly separate Captain’s Room at the end of the rectangular restaurant space.  The length of the wall has black leather banquettes.  Above these are brass railings.  A wine room has been created too, for wine storage as well as tastings. A lounge area has been created outside Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: Stanford’s Springfontein Eats has a spring, a culinary Overberg oasis!

Springfontein Eats interior 2 Whale Cottage PortfolioIt was restaurant reviewer and now Platter’s  South African Wines 2014 publisher JP Rossouw who told me about Springfontein Eats outside Stanford, asking me at the launch of the wine guide whether I had already eaten there.  Having spent the past weekend in Hermanus, I drove to the restaurant on Saturday, finding a culinary oasis, with former 1 star Michelin Chef Jürgen Schneider preparing a lunch feast justSpringfontein Eats Chef Juergen Schneider Whale Cottage Portfolio for me!

I had booked for lunch and was the only patron in the restaurant, despite it being a long weekend.  The restaurant opened two months ago. Springfontein was bought by Jürgen and Susanne Schneider as well as by Johst and Jen Weber in 1994, then a cattle farm. The farm had belonged to David Trafford’s father in law, and it was suggested to them that the abundance of water, the terroir, the limestone soil, the nearby ocean location, the difference in daytime and nighttime temperatures, and the slope on the farm, would be ideal for wine production, which advice they followed and they started planting vines eleven years ago.   They were laughed at initially, being ridiculed for the ‘vinegar’ that they would be producing, but they have proven their critics wrong!   Springfontein is the oldest wine farm in Stanford.  They sold their grapes to Hamilton Russell and to Rupert & Rothschild initially, until they started making their own wines 7 – 8 years ago.

The road to Springfontein is not the easiest to find in Stanford, one driving down Stanford’s main road, and then turning left into Moore Road, and carrying on straight, the road becoming a gravel one and taking one to Springfontein 5 km along.  The road signs are tiny, not brown tourism ones, as I had expected.  Gravel roads are not my favourite, due to a childhood experience of a car accident on such a road, but the condition of the road was reasonable.

Three cottages on the farm have been transformed into guest accommodation, and the Springfontein Winery wine cellar was built.  The old homestead was transformed into Springfontein Eats restaurant, the most recent of the facilities on the wine estate to open.  I asked Chef Jürgen why he would leave a lucrative and successful Michelin star graded restaurant Strahlenberger Hof in Schriesheim they have run for 18 years,  Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: No horse play at Equus at Cavalli Estate, hungry for success!

Equus Interior Whale Cottage PortfolioI had eagerly awaited the opening of the Cavalli Estate on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West,  its majestic entrance having been completed about two years ago, and having heard a number of times that Chef Henrico Grobbelaar would be heading up the kitchen in the Equus restaurant.  Its Equus Tasting Room, Gallery, Boutique, and Restaurant opened a month ago, its 54 thoroughbred saddlebred horses, and olive and vine plantation make up the Cavalli Estate.  It must be the largest Winelands tourism offering in terms of size and facilities offered.

Horses dominate everything at Cavalli, the Italian name for the animal, and the racehorse stud was developed while the Equus centre was being built.  The stud is the main reason for the estate’s existence, and one passes the large stable building as one drives to Equus, with fynbos evident in the gardens landscaped by Keith Kirsten, who also did the Delaire Graff gardens.   I had been invited to be shown around by mother and daughter Gundel and Annette Sogor from Gordon’s Bay, who had been to the tasting room before, but had not yet eaten at Equus. Arriving separately, we each shared how unprofessional the welcome at the security entrance as well as at the parking had been, and Lauren Smith, owner’s daughter, architect, and Operations Manager of the estate, made quick work in having the problem addressed and the outsourced security men replaced.

The Equus building is vast, and consists of a massive art gallery, a boutique, Continue reading →

‘Master of the Trade Routes’ Culinary Challenge spices up V&A Waterfront restaurants!

The V&A Waterfront is running a spicy winter restaurant promotion to encourage locals and tourists to try out 27 of its restaurants, and to vote for the restaurant with the best ‘fusion, winter-style dish’ that is affordable too.  The promotion runs until 22 August, and reflects the Cape’s culinary roots over the past 360 years, including Indian, Malay, Chinese, French, British, Dutch, Portuguese, and French, the port of Cape Town being the melting pot of the flavours of the Cape.

The promotion was designed by the V&A Waterfront’s advertising agency Jupiter Drawing Room, and its communication quality reflects the V&A’s leadership as the best shopping mall in the Cape.  The Culinary Challenge is communicated via a Sunday Times insert, the electronic boards and posters in the V&A, and a ‘Master of the Trade Routes’ display emblem resembling a plate at participating restaurants.  Dash at the Queen Victoria hotel, Signal at the Cape Grace, The Atlantic at the Table Bay hotel, Nobu and Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town, Willoughby’s, Wang Thai, Harbour House, San Marco, La Playa,  Quay 4, Balducci’s, Meloncino, OYO at the V&A Hotel, The Quarterdeck (Portswood Hotel), Primi Wharf, Clipper at the Commodore Hotel, Den Anker, City Grill Steakhouse, Krugmann’s Grill, Karibu, Jewel of India, Greek Fisherman, Hildebrand Ristorante, Sevruga, Tasca De Belem, and, interestingly, The Grand on the Beach, are the participating restaurants.  In addition, but not participating in the Culinary Challenge as such, are Emporio Leone, offering a trio of South African dessert classics (malva pudding, a milk tart macaroon, and peppermint crisp tart truffle) at R35, and Gelato Mania, offering a gelato flavoured with vanilla pods from Mauritius.

Each restaurant will offer a ‘signature dish‘, and other dishes may form part of a winter special for the Culinary Challenge.  Nobu’s Winter Bento Box costs R275, with a cold and a hot section of three dishes each and a dessert; Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town is offering a Steak & Guinness Pie at R125; Willoughby’s signature dish is ‘The Bomb’, a tempura prawn roll with spicy seared Tuna and Avocado wrapping, at R129; Harbour House is offering a free-range short rib at R120; The Atlantic has a 2 course offer, being Lamb Parpardelle, preceded by a cauliflower puree with smoked Franschhoek trout and poached quail egg for a good value price of R120; Hildebrand Ristorante charges R90 for its signature Chocolate and Ginger Venison; Quay 4 has Malay Kreef Curry as its signature dish for R90; and Dash is serving pan-seared magret duck breast on spiced pear purée with sage and quinoa, at R95.

Not having been to Signal restaurant since it changed from Bruce Robertson’s One.Waterfront, I chose the Cape Grace restaurant, which has painted wall murals reflecting the Cape’s historic origins, done when the restaurant changed its name, and these make Signal a forerunner for the V&A Culinary Challenge on its decor and interior design alone! There is no shortage of staff at Signal, and each one of them greets one as if one is there on daily basis.  The tables have tablecloths, with a mix of traditional wooden chairs, ghost chairs, and leather upholstered chairs. Each table has a vase with a protea, and throughout the hotel the national flower is used, suiting the ‘Proudly Cape’ promotion theme too. Cutlery is posh Hepp Exclusiv.  Three chandeliers have small copper pots with the crystals.  Seating sections in the restaurant are divided by what look like sash window frames, giving the room a Cape Dutch feel.  Its A la Carte menu states that it offers ‘Cape Cosmopolitan Cuisine’, being ‘global contemporary dishes with a unique Cape twist’. The menu introduction echoes the theme, stating that sailing boats braved the high seas to introduce the ‘world to the wonders of fragrant herbs and spices’. Using marine-inspired terminology, it continues about its approach to food: ‘Signal encourages the global traveller to plot a course over the Cape’s ancestral landscape. With ingredients encompassing responsible and sustainable food practices and dishes crossing worldwide borders, we welcome you and hope you enjoy your journey’. The black leather covered winelist contains an extensive collection of 40 wines by the glass, and 150 wines by the bottle, complementing the cuisine served. The wines are not inexpensive, but there is a wide price range offered.  For example, in the Shiraz category, the thirteen wines offered range from R72/R195 (Glenwood 2008) to R925 for Haskell Pillars 2008.

As the V&A had booked the table on my behalf, the staff handed me the beautifully designed Culinary Challenge menu automatically, but I did ask to see the A la Carte menu too.  The restaurant offers as its Culinary Challenge signature dish a ‘De-constructed Bobotie‘, being a very rare prepared bobotie-spiced Springbok loin, roasted parsnip, pickled mango purée, almond crumble, and a curried lentil jus, costing a mere R95.  One can also order 3 courses, at R195, very good value. As I am allergic to mussels, the Assistant Restaurant Manager Sean O’Brien kindly allowed me to substitute a starter from the A la Carte menu for the Aromatic coconut and ginger broth with steamed mussels and coriander foam.  The dessert was a typically South African Peppermint Crisp Tart, served with fresh peppermint ice cream, and Pastry Chef Lorraine Meaney had made gold-dusted Valrhona chocolate discs to place on top of each individual tart.  With the cappuccino friandises, being an apricot jelly slice, a beetroot chocolate blondie, and a caramel macaroon, were served.

Voting for the ‘Master of the Trade Routes’ is done by food bloggers, writers, and critics, as well as by the public, for the People’s Choice Award, in selecting the winning restaurant(s).  Food writers were spoilt with a most beautiful spice box, to encourage them to review a restaurant of their choice. A beautifully designed locked box collects the evaluation sheets diners have to complete for the voting.  Various aspects have to be rated, including presentation, taste, interpretation of the fusion theme, service, ambience, and value for money.  Clients eating at a participating restaurant stand a chance to win meal vouchers and attendance at the gala event aboard the SA Agulhas II, at which the winners out of the Top 8 restaurants will be announced.

The quality and value for money offer experienced at Signal restaurant for the ‘Master of the Trade Routes Culinary Challenge’ will make me try other restaurants that I have not been to in the V&A Waterfront in the next two months, not only for their good value, but also for the creative and spicy interpretation of the winter promotion theme.

POSTSCRIPT 3/8: The Top 8 restaurants in the V&A Waterfront’s Master of the Trade Routes Culinary Challenge have been announced in the Cape Times today: Signal at the Cape Grace hotel, Dash at the Queen Victoria hotel, Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town, Den Anker, The Grand on the Beach, Sevruga, Harbour House, and Willoughby’s.

POSTSCRIPT 31/8: Signal restaurant at Cape Grace won the Master of the Trade Routes Culinary Challenge, with Dash at the Queen Victoria Hotel coming second.  Sevruga won the People’s Choice Award, with its Miso-marinated kingklip dish.

V&A Waterfront ‘Master of the Trade Routes Culinary Challenge‘, see www.waterfront.co.za for the list and menus, and operating hours and days of the 27 participating restaurants. 1 June – 22 August.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

De Meye country winery and The Table Best Country-Style Restaurant tucked away in the countryside!

The first time that many food and wine lovers heard of De Meye Wines was at the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards in November, when its restaurant The Table at De Meye was announced as the Best Country-Style Restaurant.

The only thing that one heard at the Awards evening was that the restaurant is owned by a photographer who has done work with Eat Out Editor and Taste Food Editor Abigail Donnelly, and on Russel Wasserfall’s photography website he highly praises the styling talents of Mrs Donnelly for a shoot they did for Taste magazine.  The restaurant had only opened two or three months before winning the award. Given the Makaron Eat Out Best Style Award debacle, there were whispers that The Table at De Meye may also have fared well due to Mrs Donnelly’s working relationship with Russel.

I made a booking for a table at The Table at De Meye two weeks ago, and had the initial unpleasant experience of my booking having been accepted and subsequently cancelled, both because I had planned to come on my own (they only serve food in platters for two or more), and because of what we had written about Mrs Donnelly and the Makaron Eat Out Best Style Award on this blog.  I suspect that it also had to do with our criticism of the digital magazine Crush!, about which we have written a number of times, and for which Russel has done some amazing photography, which we acknowledged in our Crush blogposts.  At his demand, I had to send Russel an e-mail, promising that I would not write a review about my meal (he mentioned that they did not want to get into an Eat Out story about Abigail Donnelly, something I could have written without eating there – ultimately one must wonder what Russel has to hide), and that I would bring a friend, both of which I did.  The former directive is contrary to the freedom of speech, and occurred in the same week as the Beluga blogger ban.  I decided that I would see how the experience went, and to turn this blogpost into a story about De Meye Wines, with a comment about The Table restaurant, without calling it a Restaurant Review as such, so that I could keep my promise!

De Meye has been in the hands of the Myburgh family for close to 150 years, and is named after the Dutch river and town that the family originates from.   About 60% of the 100 hectare farm is planted to vine, according to the Platter wine guide, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc.  Philip Myburgh is the owner of the farm now, with his mother Isabelle in the tasting room. The winemaker is Marcus Milner, who has been on the farm for 12 years, having previously worked at Warwick, almost around the corner.  I had not noticed the De Meye signage off the R45, opposite Kanonkop, which is the road that leads to Elsenberg and Muldersvlei, and as soon as one turns on to it, one gets a strong country smell from the horses on the first farm on this road.  I had never travelled on this road, and drove through the tiny hamlet of Elsenberg, in which the wine college is located.

The Platter evaluator Greg de Bryn wrote about De Meye: “The long-standing team at this quaint assemblage of recycled farm buildings has focused on a distinctive house style for their wines, and change is now more evolutionary.  Environmental considerations have always been a priority, and every step of the production process takes note of the carbon footprint it leaves”. The tasting room is in an old barn, and has an interesting collection of furniture, being the touch of The Table at De Meye Chef Camilla Comins, Isabelle told me, looking more like a family lounge.  Shelving displays the De Meye wines (the flagship Trutina 2009 blend, Shiraz 2009, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Merlot 2009, Shiraz Rosé 2011, Unwooded Chardonnay 2011, and Chenin Blanc 2011, as well as their Little River Shiraz 2010 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2010). The cellar door prices range from R42 to R110. For sale too is stewed fruit, marmalade, and relishes, all made by Camilla, and olive oil from Porterville. Some vegetables are grown on the farm, to feed the restaurant.

A friendship between Russel and a Myburgh family member brought Russel and his wife Camilla to the De Meye farm, and the family encouraged the couple to open up a restaurant in a disused barn, with exposed wooden beams, some with barbed wire, opening onto the kitchen. Overture chef Bertus Basson gave his blessing to the new venture. Tables are set inside and outside, with beautiful old English crockery, and the Hepp Exclusiv cutlery matches the style.  Fresh flowers are on the table, with coarse salt and an unusual-looking pepper grinder.  Material serviettes are provided. Russel is the host while Camilla prepares the delicious food.  No menu is presented – the website tells one to check the menu of the weekend ahead, and there is no choice offered.  One may indicate that one requires a vegetarian option however.  The menu changes week after week.  The price is R250 per person, an increase of 11 % since an article was written about the restaurant in the Sunday Times food supplement in December. The De Meye wine prices are not indicated when sitting outside, but are very reasonable – the Shiraz Rosé (R20 per glass) has a beautiful blush colouring, and was a most refreshing ‘antidote’ to the 36°C heat of the day.  Russel and Camilla live in Paarl, where she works at Roses Handmade confectionery company in the week, making fudge, nougat, toffees, and Turkish delight for Woolworths.  Russel does photography for a Norwegian contract and one local unnamed retainer client (probably Crush!, as its logo is on his photography website), with other projects in-between.

Russel was a most engaging host, informative, explaining each dish and its origin, and leaving my friend and I lots of time to catch-up after a thirty year absence.  We did not feel rushed to eat, and Russel checked regularly that the glasses were filled. The starter was a salad of free-range hormone-free chicken livers, with Steve the Magic Man’s organic baby leaves, topped with fried beetroot, the livers having a slightly tangy after-taste from a little chilli.  With the starter came lovely bread topped with poppy seed.  The butter is made in a historic churner, Russel said.  The main course was an oven-roasted Karoo lamb, served with the most beautiful vegetable platter I have ever seen, containing a Moroccan-style carrot salad, hasselback potatoes, and fried cherry tomatoes.  One feels sorry to not finish the generous helpings that are served, hoping that Chef Camilla will not be offended if the plates are not returned licked clean!  The dessert was a famous ‘Ouefs a la nege’ (sic), (‘oeufs a la neige’ being ‘eggs in snow’), a soft meringue in créme anglaise and served with summer berries, a perfect end to a perfect meal.

We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon, well looked after by Camilla and Russel in terms of food, wine and personal service, and the Eat Out Best Country-Style Restaurant accolade is well deserved.  It is a shame that they should have caused such a fuss about the booking and blogging conditions prior to our arrival.

POSTSCRIPT 24/8: I have seen correspondence between Russel and a supplier of communication services, and his interaction is filled with arrogance.  He disparagingly refers to this review, yet quotes the positive parts from it!  One hopes that Chief Eat Out Judge Abigail Donnelly will see this side of her award-winners too, and consider carefully awarding the Best Country Restaurant to The Table at De Meye again.  It appears that Russel has had a paragliding accident, and will only back at the restaurant in September.

POSTSCRIPT 27/7/13: Russel Wasserfall and his wife let go of the restaurant a few months ago, and it is now run by Luke and Jessie Grant, previously of Nook in Stellenbosch.

De Meye Wines, Muldersvlei Road, off R45, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 884-4131.   www.demeye.co.za Mondays – Fridays.

The Table at De Meye, Stellenbosch. Tel 083 252 9588.  www.thetablerestaurant.co.za Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunch.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@ WhaleCottage